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How to Research a Trucking School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Saraland AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Saraland AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Saraland AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Saraland AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Saraland AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Saraland AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Saraland AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Saraland AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Saraland AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.